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Senior Citizen Arrested, Strip Searched for Traffic Violation

Policeman treats a 65-year-old like a hardened criminal

         Last week, my 65-year-old neighbor Jeanie Lovelady who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis was arrested, handcuffed and taken to the DeKalb County jail where she was strip searched and incarcerated in a jail cell - for a traffic violation. She has no police record. Her ticket was administered for forgetting to pay a ticket for crossing over a yellow line while going around a stationary Marta bus.

         Jeanie is a retired psychologist.  Since the onset of her arthritis, because of her medications for pain, she is often forgetful and has become hard of hearing. We both felt it was important to tell her story so that others, particularly senior citizens can be forewarned.

         “After being pulled over in Tucker, the policeman made me get out of my car, spread my legs, put my hands behind my back and handcuffed me. I was stupefied! While he was patting me down, I was crying from the pain explaining I had rheumatoid arthritis. Having my hands behind my back was excruciating. I asked, “Why am I being arrested.”  He ignored me.”

         After being put in the police car, Jeanie collapsed on the back seat in pain. Sobbing uncontrollably she pleaded with the policemen to uncuff her. He finally realized she was telling the truth, moved her arms and cuffed them in front, but she was still in pain.  He finally said her tag had expired and there was a warrant for her arrest for an unpaid ticket.  She said she never received a warrant and asked if she couldn’t just pay the ticket instead of being arrested.  He said the warrant procedure was explained on the back of her ticket. 

         “He told me he going to impound my car.  I explained I was a senior citizen on limited income and could not afford to have my car impounded. I begged him to allow my friend to come and get it. To my surprise, he called Lexie (Nancy)."

         When I arrived, Jeanie was handcuffed in the backseat of the police car, her face covered with perspiration from the pain. 

         I asked the officer. “What are you doing?  Can't you see she is in pain from the handcuffs? Does this woman look like a criminal?  Would you do this to your mother?  He ignored me. I was livid!

          I watched as he took Jeanie to jail feeling totally helpless. When two hours passed without hearing anything, I drove to the jail on Memorial Drive and tried to speak with two indifferent women who ignored me.  I finally spoke to a female officer who said Jeanie had been incarcerated with a bond of almost $900 that had to be paid in cash.  I didn’t have that much money. I assumed Jeanie’s daughter could help her, however, I didn’t know her last name nor did I have her phone number.  I asked the woman if she would have someone go ask Jeanie for her daughter’s information so I could call her. She refused with total indifference.

         “When we arrived at the jail, I was still crying from the pain of the cuffs. I was placed with other women on a stainless steel bench in a holding room. No one explained my rights or any rules. I knew I needed to call someone, but I was so traumatized, my mind went completely blank. I couldn’t remember anyone’s phone number and couldn’t speak. The words coming out of my mouth were unintelligible. Then, I saw that the only place to go to the bathroom was a toilet behind a half wall that was completely exposed to a man in the next room. I decided I would hold it until I burst!

         At 7 o’clock, they gave Jeanie her phone and told said her bond was set for almost $900.  She gave the women two credit cards and told her to split the fee on the cards knowing if she did, she wouldn’t be able to pay her house mortgage or any other bills. The woman didn’t bother telling her she had to go through a bondsman and pay cash. I don’t know why she woman kept her credit cards for several hours. 

         I finally reached Jeanie’s daughter and she placed bond around 10:00.

         “In the meantime, they took my finger prints, gave me a TB test and when I took the urine test, I was allowed to go into a private bathroom and finally relieved myself. I was horrified and humiliated when they strip-searched me and made me squat to make sure there was no weapons or drugs up my rectum.  We had to lift our breast one at a time to make sure we had not concealed anything. Before putting me in a cell, the officer made me hold out my hands to cuff me again, I screamed at her, NO! Not on my left hand. She then put the cuffs back so that I could hold my left arm up.  When they finally came to release me from the cell.  The officer barked, Get your bag!  I was having trouble getting my things out.  So she screamed, “You are taking too long! I have other people who want to get out. I’ll just leave and come back in a few hours. When she saw me crying helplessly, she waited, then took my fingerprints for the third time and I was finally released from their abuse around 3:30.”

         Jeanie is still traumatized.  She sobbed and paced constantly during the telling of her story. She cannot believe she had to endure such a cruel, humiliating nightmare.

         “Why wasn't I told my rights as a citizen?  Is this typical of Georgia jails? At least they should inform you when there is a warrant for your arrest. Traffic offenders should not be thrown in with convicted felons. No one should have to be frightened and humiliated this way. This injustice has motivated me to do something to change the system.”

Amberr Meadows March 04, 2011 at 05:10 PM
The treatment of that poor lady was nothing less than DISGUSTING. For all of the officers involved in the process, they should be ashamed to be such disgraces to society. I hope that she nails them with a lawsuit, or at the least, demand that the officers are penalized severely for their lack of humanity, compassion and common sense.
Patricia Kilpatrick March 07, 2011 at 01:28 PM
I'm confused. I thought our police were there to serve us by keeping us safe from dangerous criminals.
Theresa Woodgeard March 07, 2011 at 05:50 PM
Nancy and Jeanie: If you want to make formal complaints against either the arresting officer or the employees at the jail, there are ways to proceed. Contact the DeKalb County Sherriff's Office of Professional Standards and the Internal Affairs Unit at the DeKalb County Police Department for assistance. You can find the phone numbers on their websites.
Kevin Madigan (Editor) March 07, 2011 at 07:29 PM
Good advice. Thanks, Theresa.
Cynthia L. Armistead March 12, 2011 at 09:00 PM
Every interaction I've ever had with law enforcement (save one detective, who was a very special case) has left me feeling that we all need protection FROM the so-called "justice" system. In most cases, I was approaching them as the VICTIM of a crime or was involved in a routine traffic stop or accident in which I was not at fault. Whether in Dekalb, Gwinnett, Cobb, or the city of Atlanta, most police officers seem to get into that line of work because they want power over others, and then they enjoy pushing that power as far as it will go. They assume the worst about every single person they encounter in the most innocent circumstances. I want to hear more about this story, but unfortunately, I'm not surprised at all. Nancy, please let Jeanie know that many people are thinking about her and want to support her in this difficult time. Has she considered approaching an attorney?
zenebech bogale March 15, 2011 at 02:36 PM
This same thing happen to me, sadly to say i still have nightmare from that terrible day which left me totaly shock and afraid the so cold juctis system. in my opinon some thing should be done it could happen to anyone.
Fran Logan March 15, 2011 at 06:49 PM
I called WSB-TV and told them that, although her ordeal was terrible, this happens in Atlanta and around the country, I'm sure, everyday and that they should do an in-depth investigation into police harassment. The same thing happened to me. I once was an avid supporter of the police, but they are getting out of control (like the rest of society). Go round up some murderers and drug dealers, not single mothers and senior citizens for minor traffic issues, to meet your quotas and insure you have jobs!
Regina Ross March 16, 2011 at 10:07 PM
This is absolutely outrageous!! What a great example of how out of control some police officers and departments have become.
Johnny Doe March 18, 2011 at 09:20 PM
Many of ya'll have no idea what being a Police Officer is. Your friend simply was violating the law, she had and expired tag, and a warrant for unpaid tickets, and clearly she had violated the law before. Passing a MARTA bus on a double yellow line? Are we forgeting what happened last year when someone passed a bus and killed a pedestrian? This Officer was clearly just doing his job, and following the depts. policy which was written by the people you've all elected. If you don't like the policy I suggest you get rid of those you have elected. Another thing you all are forgeting is that if that Officer had allowed your friend to drive off, its possible that she could've killed a family on the way home from school, or herself. The editor herself said that her friend was on medication that made her friend forget stuff, so should she really be driving on that medication? Is it not the law that all Ga drivers have a valid license and not be under the influence of drugs and alcohol while driving on the roads? Just saying, Going back to if the Officer had released her and she created "another" situiation, that Officer would be getting sued civily by whom ever she killed or possibly even by her family. The Officer simply did his job, he cut her a huge break by not impounding her car, I don't understand why all of you are crying power hungry on here. Walk a day in the shoes of an Officer from the Dekalb County Police, they answer more calls than any agency in the metro area.
Kevin Madigan (Editor) March 18, 2011 at 10:59 PM
The issue at hand is how she was treated after her arrest, not the arrest itself.
Johnny Doe March 18, 2011 at 11:59 PM
Honestly the way this article is written it seems like the author is simply trying to create a story out of something that is standard procedure. The Officers don't know who they are pulling over on every circumstance. But as I said before if she had just taken care of her other traffic ticket, NONE of this would've ever happened, who knows the way Dekalb Officers have been on their ticket strike she probably would've been given a warning. Also remember Dekalb Police are a seperate entity from the Sheriffs Dept. they too have policy put in place to protect those that work and those who stay in the jail. If they treated your friend any differently that would be special treatment and discrimination. Also illegal.
Cynthia L. Armistead March 19, 2011 at 12:54 AM
Yes, if Ms. Lovelady had taken care of the ticket and renewed her tag, there wouldn't have been a problem. And I agree that if her medication causes actual impairment, she may need to reconsider driving. I understand those issues. I myself seldom drive because of medications I take on a regular basis, and have to plan ahead and stay off of some of them if I know I will have to drive. The officer did NOT read Ms. Lovelady her rights - which IS a significant legal issue. There is no justification for him not explaining WHY she was being arrested before cuffing her and putting him in the car. There was no reason for him to refuse to listen to her explanation that she had rheumatoid arthritis until she had been in horrific pain and sobbing for some time. Honestly, there doesn't seem to have been any real justification for him to cuff her at all. Are officers given absolutely NO education regarding how to deal with elderly or disabled citizens? There was no justification for the jail personnel to be so rude to Ms. Ross when she was trying to get help for Ms. Lovelady. There was no reason someone couldn't have explained to Ms. Lovelady that the bail had to be paid in cash, or that she had to use a bail bondsman. The situation is shameful, and it must be changed.
Cynthia L. Armistead March 19, 2011 at 12:57 AM
Oh, "Johnny Doe"? If you're so proud of how police officers perform their duties, why are you posting anonymously? Nobody else is doing that. Your chosen methods remove much of any credibility your remarks COULD have.
Johnny Doe March 19, 2011 at 02:01 AM
Because I have educated myself in the constitution, and know my rights, I have never been a victim of your so called wronging by Police Officers but I have been given a few tickets over the years and paid them rightfully so because I was in the wrong. Also in that it is my right to post anonymously, there are a lot of predators out there looking for someone to prey on and I choose to be anonymous for that reason. I would encourage not posting any type of personal information on the internet or pictures. The issue of Officers not reading people their rights, the only time they have to read rights is when you are in custody, and being questioned in reference to a crime. You should Google Miranda vs. Arizona, thats all I did hence Miranda Warning. I support our Police Dept and do agree there are some bad apples in every field of work. But before people bash the ones that protect us and uphold our constitution I would encourage them to educate themselves in the laws and rights of Americans.
Justice March 19, 2011 at 02:45 AM
Johnny Doe - Thanks for your salient points. I'm not a police officer, but I've made it a point to understand who they are and what they do. The average citizen, and the majority, have absolutely NO idea what they go through - both on the street and as employees of Dekalb County. Anyone with an ounce of compassion would be distressed over the circumstances of this story, and I hope this poor lady heals from the trauma. If she were my friend or family member, I would be in a state of angry protectiveness too. But folks, it doesn't look like there is much here that wasn't done 'by the book'. Handled with insensitivity? Perhaps. Should she have been given special treatment? How are they to know the situation warrants it, and like Johnny said, surely the Officer would experience repercussions for that as well. They've heard it all and seen it all. Go spend a few hours riding along with a Dekalb Officer - you won't believe what you see. There are many things we citizens can do, like looking after our senior friends and family to make sure they are compliant and safe. Work with police in getting answers without attacking them. They have great leadership now, and I know they'll help get to the bottom of this, even though you may not like what you hear. (I'm with you Johnny - I won't sign my real name either.)
Scott Melchionda March 19, 2011 at 06:34 PM
We have trolls! Yay! We've arrived!
Regina Ross March 19, 2011 at 07:21 PM
I am not a legal or constitutional expert, but I am a very educated citizen who recognizes a basic wrong. Police officers likely do see a lot - but that in no way gives them a right to mistreat the next person they run into. Perhaps the police officer in this case did do "everything by the book".. however if he did that should create a greater concern in all of us about the justice (??) system that has been created in this country. Surely nothing positive was created by how this woman was treated, and I do not believe the officer thought she was a threat to him or anyone else. We need to regain some common sense folks!! And how sad that the anonymous writers are afraid to reveal their identity, another very negative reflection on our "free" society.
Dianna cuyos March 03, 2013 at 07:52 PM
Oh Jeanie, what a terrible ordeal! I have been wondering about where you are and what you are doing. Would love to hear from you. Wayne from ECU

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